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Brain Fitness Survey: We Need More Brain Awareness Weeks!

If you sub­scribe to our month­ly newslet­ter, you may remem­ber we ran a sur­vey in Jan­u­ary. Well, the response rate and the qual­i­ty of the respons­es were noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar, in many dimen­sions. The respons­es from over 2,000 par­tic­i­pants (out of 21,000 sub­scribers) rein­force the need for pub­lic aware­ness ini­tia­tives and qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion to help eval­u­ate and nav­i­gate prod­uct claims.

I have been pre­sent­ing the results from one of the ques­tions (see below), yes­ter­day at the ASA/ NCOA (Amer­i­can Soci­ety on Aging) event, today at IHRSA (Inter­na­tion­al Health, Rac­quet and Sports­club Asso­ci­a­tion), as part of more com­pre­hen­sive pre­sen­ta­tions of what is going on in the brain fit­ness and cog­ni­tive health field.

An obvi­ous impli­ca­tion for the sur­vey result rein­forces the need for brain-relat­ed pub­lic aware­ness cam­paigns such as the ongo­ing Brain Aware­ness Week. Every year, land­mark research find­ings open new oppor­tu­ni­ties to help main­tain life­long cog­ni­tive health and brain fit­ness. The oppor­tu­ni­ty is immense — but we will need to ensure the mar­ket­place matures in a ratio­nal and sus­tain­able man­ner, help­ing con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als sep­a­rate hope from hype and make informed deci­sions.

Robin Klaus, Chair­man of Club One Fit­ness Cen­ters (the com­pa­ny is a client, he is an advi­sor), just gave us a nice quote say­ing that “as our pop­u­la­tion ages the fields of phys­i­cal fit­ness and brain fit­ness will nat­u­ral­ly merge and, as this hap­pens, a whole new field of val­ued added ser­vices will emerge for our mem­bers. High qual­i­ty infor­ma­tion­al resources such as Sharp­Brains’ are cru­cial to the suc­cess of this merg­er.”

The Sur­vey: Results to Key Ques­tion

Asked, “What is the most impor­tant prob­lem you see in the brain fit­ness field and how do you think it can be solved?” respon­dents iden­ti­fied the fol­low­ing six prob­lems in rank order:

#1: Pub­lic Aware­ness (39%)
— “Get­ting peo­ple to under­stand that hered­i­ty alone does not decide brain func­tion­ing.”
— “An expec­tant pub­lic will first want to believe that a “mir­a­cle” drug is to be soon avail­able (to pre­vent Alzheimer’s Dis­ease).”

#2: Nav­i­gat­ing Claims (21%)
- “How to sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing hype from stuff that real­ly works?”
— “The lack of stan­dards and clear def­i­n­i­tions is very con­fus­ing, and makes a lot of peo­ple scep­ti­cal.”

#3: Research (15%)
— “Deter­min­ing what activ­i­ties are most ben­e­fi­cial to the user with the min­i­mum lev­el of effort or most over­lap of the already exist­ing efforts.”

#4: Health­care Cul­ture (14%)
— “Inte­gra­tion with­in exist­ing health­care infra­struc­tures — this will require research, edu­ca­tion, and cul­ture change. If brain fit­ness remains a niche alter­na­tive approach for the well-healed, we will have failed.”

#5: Lack of Assess­ment (6%)
— “Lack of devel­op­ment of stan­dard­ized and eas­i­ly acces­si­ble assess­ments of cog­ni­tive sta­tus that could be used by indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions to test the effi­ca­cy of cog­ni­tive improve­ment meth­ods.”

#6: Oth­er prob­lems (5%)
— “Lack of infor­ma­tion and prod­ucts avail­able to peo­ple — per­haps a dri­ve to get the prod­ucts and infor­ma­tion in pub­lic libraries would help.”

Note: The full results and analy­sis of the com­plete sur­vey will be includ­ed in the upcom­ing Sharp­Brains mar­ket report, The State of the Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009.

What can be done to solve these prob­lems?

#1 Pub­lic Aware­ness: Par­tic­i­pate in Brain Aware­ness Week activ­i­ties!

#2 Nav­i­gat­ing claims: we are pub­lish­ing short­ly 2 new resources to help exec­u­tives, pro­fes­sion­als and con­sumers under­stand the emerg­ing field and nav­i­gate the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of claims:

1) Mar­ket Report- The State of the Brains Fit­ness Soft­ware Mar­ket 2009 (April 2009): A com­pre­hen­sive report review­ing the state of the research and mar­ket, includ­ing 2008 mar­ket data, an analy­sis of the land­scape and trends in 4 major mar­ket seg­ments, 10 research exec­u­tive briefs writ­ten by lead­ing sci­en­tists, deep pro­files of over 20 com­pa­nies, and the results of the full mar­ket sur­vey intro­duced above.

2) Con­sumer Guide- The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice, and Prod­uct Reviews to Keep Your Brain Sharp (May 2009): In sev­en well-researched and ful­ly anno­tat­ed chap­ters, the guide pro­vides a con­cise overview of the four pil­lars of life­long brain main­te­nance and an invalu­able per­spec­tive on the grow­ing field of Brain Fit­ness. The guide eval­u­ates the most cur­rent evi­dence behind a num­ber of prod­ucts mak­ing brain fit­ness claims so that read­ers can make informed deci­sions and bet­ter under­stand emerg­ing trends.

Fyi, the mar­ket report will explore all iden­ti­fied prob­lems in more depth (includ­ing research, health cul­ture, lack of assess­ment, oth­er), and sug­gest actions to solve them and help the field mature in a more ratio­nal and struc­tured man­ner.

Every­one: Have a great Brain Aware­ness Week!

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